Josh Howard has twice in the past few days now used the phrase "Playing down to our competition." He said it after the Miami game and again Wednesday when asked why the Mavs are just 8-6 against the Eastern Conference, yet 15-5 in the tougher West.
"Playing down to the level of our competition, we can't do that," Howard said. "We're a championship team and we need to keep playing like we're champions."
Coach Avery Johnson didn't particularly care for the phrase "playing down." He said it was more like the competition "playing up" to the level of the Mavs.
"I think it goes both ways," Johnson said. "A lot of times if teams come in and they're severe underdogs, sometimes they play more relaxed. Sometimes the ball goes in a little bit more when there's not as much pressure."
A good test will come on the three-game West Coast road swing to Seattle, the L.A. Clippers and Sacramento, three struggling teams that aren't particularly good at home either.
-- Jeff Caplan